If you agree that not much is sadder — and potentially more unsettling to our society — than a child torn from his or her home, here is a way you can make a difference, one kid at a time.
You can advocate for a child who ends up in court because parents or guardians can’t keep their own lives together — whether because of broken relationships, crime, drug or alcohol obsession, domestic violence, poverty, physical or mental illness, or, likely, a combination of those factors.
You can understand how this child is scared, alone and adrift, as the mysteries of the legal system play out before young eyes. The child sees sanctions imposed on the adults to whom he or she has looked for at least some protection and assurance. Even in the worst family relationship, kids hang on to any remnant of support they can find.
Some of these children may themselves be the object of court action because of unacceptable behavior that has landed them in trouble. Imagine, for instance, a 9-year-old headed to institutionalization because of uncontrolled and continuing outbursts of anger, bullying and violent threats. It happens.
No matter their individual circumstance, such children need advocates, if their lives are to be redirected before they are lost to a cycle of abuse, poverty, crime and despair. It’s hard work, but such lives, we at least hope, can be repaired.
This is where many social and religious agencies step in, but most especially the Court Appointed Special Advocate program — CASA — ... Luckily, Vigo County has a CASA program, as do many other counties on both sides of the state line. Vigo’s program has existed since 1989.
Nationally, CASA units exist in 951 communities, serving 238,000 abused or neglected children. A juvenile court judge in Seattle started the idea in 1977, and, as the need has grown in the nearly 40 years since, so have the number of CASA units.